In my own personal struggle for positivity, basically defeating a lifetime of harrowing depression and long being the tortured writer/musician, I reached a plateau where I felt a lack of inner growth—nothing serious, but still longing for progress. And I found something I’ve always known, but am just now implementing in a true way. One thing I’ve fought for years and many other writers, artists, musicians (or everyone) experience the same thing—is the need to force my view of the world on others. On a deep philosophical level, this is an albatross I want totally discarded.
For example, we may have political or religious beliefs we believe are correct, and everybody else is wrong. I see it everyday. Democrats criticizing republicans. Republicans criticizing democrats. And every nasty thing they say about one another is true, but cannot see their own faults. Have you ever considered that both sides are wrong? That you maybe wrong in what you think? I’m not saying don’t fight for what you believe in, but to see yourself from other perspectives.
Stephen King’s Criticism
I read a scathing article where author Stephen King basically said that Stephenie Meyer, author of the teenage tinged vampire novel Twilight, can’t write. He also said that Erle Stanley Gardener, known for his Perry Mason mysteries, and I quote, “He was a terrible writer, too, but he was very successful.”
On one hand it seems childish, on the other I understand King’s opinion. In today’s world of pop-cultural phenoms and stars, true artistic talent often comes second to popularity. It’s like someone who thinks Britney Spears is the greatest musical artist of all time, and has never heard of Igor Stravinsky, and perhaps doesn’t have the sophistication to appreciate his genius. Being a musician myself who considers improvisational jazz to be the pinnacle of artistic know-how, and classical and modern composers to be the greatest—I at one point became disheartened to see Britney or other pop artists win Grammy awards being they cannot even read music or don’t write their own songs (something I think should be a prerequisite for even being considered for a Grammy).
But who am I to criticize anyone? While I do appreciate King’s sentiment that a writer can suck and still be popular, I don’t want to have the need to say stuff like that. I don’t want those thoughts in my brain. Yes, Stephenie Meyer is not Tolstoy, and her books are written to entertain teenage girls (and even adults), but I say more power to her. I personally cannot allow myself to judge another person’s success or lack thereof. Just because you might not like something, doesn’t mean others shouldn’t either. Stephenie Meyer is successful and I say leave her be. It’s the old adage to each his own. Your opinions are your opinions, but maybe it’s time to reevaluate why you have them in the first place—on a deep level.
I’m not a huge Stephen King fan, and though I do write in a horror related genre, I am not influenced by him at all. I read several of his books as a teen, and did like most of them. I could say his book The Tommyknockers was boring, uninspired with long-winded character descriptions having nothing to do with the plot and so forth—but I really don’t care. Yes, I thought that particular book sucked. The Green Mile is considered a masterpiece among many, but I can’t buy into the plot. I personally can’t get into stories where people have magical powers; it’s unrealistic (that’s just my personal preference), but I have no right to criticize his work or say he’s a terrible writer. He’s a great writer, one of the greatest horror writers of all time, but like everyone, not everything he writes is great.
It’s all opinion. We like what we like. We believe in what we choose to. I think it’s far better to say something like, “I’m just not into that story,” or “this genre doesn’t appeal to me, and not entertain the thought that you know better than someone else. When it comes to creativity, art, or love, beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Teaching guitar to people is funny sometimes. Many come in wanting to learn how to play a Metallica song. I used to try to teach them why their idea of greatness is without validity, or why they should love John Coltrane’s music; why this musician is a genius and this one isn’t. It all comes into focus now. The world doesn’t revolve around my opinion. One man’s genius is another man’s idiot. What I think is beautiful, you may find ugly and so on. Now, if someone only wants to learn Metallica songs, I teach them without question and weave theoretical aspects into the lessons—making the often dry theory come alive in the context of something they actually like even if the musicians in Metallica are hacks (I’m just joking around).
This I think is beyond merely accepting others, it’s transcending the thought process entirely. I’m so reminded of one of my favorite poems by Bukowski, The Genius of The Crowd, particularly in the following lines This is only an excerpt:
there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day
and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace
beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect
To me, this poem, while dark, illustrates perfectly the disease of the human condition. The urge we sometimes have to force our own views on others—the shallow veil we toss around in our own quest to be perceived as accepting of others—is often a cloak.
To transcend this thought process completely is probably inhuman, but is something to strive for. We can say things like, “Though I’m a devout Christian, I do accept followers of Islam.” But is that just window dressing? Or is it true? After Michael Richard’s (who played Kramer in the TV series Seinfeld) ugly display of blatant racism last year in a stand up routine he said, “But some of my best friends are black.”
Ah yes, his true colors shined vulgar and his statement waxed disingenuous. He no longer insults African Americans in his stand-up, but is he merely shrouding his true feelings? I hope he has now grown up. The point is, it’s better to be at peace and not have hatred to hide in the first place. In trying to create art, write or whatever—why worry about what others think? Do what you do and be the best that you can be. Simplicity always unclouds the mind.
- Do you accept people for who they are or just say you do? (this is a trick question)
- Is it wrong to judge another artist’s work, put them down or see yourself or what you like as more qualified?
- If someone degrades you, calls you names or criticizes you, do you feel the need for retaliation?
- Is Stephen King’s criticism OK with you? Is it good to point out that a writer can be famous and suck at the same time?